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Published: Thursday, June 28, 2018 @ 11:15 AM
The long running partisan battle over the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections boiled over in a U.S. House hearing on Thursday, as Republicans accused top Trump Administration officials of intentionally withholding evidence in a bid to cover up what some GOP lawmakers say is an investigation that is biased against the President.
After months of behind-the-scenes skirmishing over documents that Republicans want from the FBI and the Department of Justice, the tone of the hearing was set early, when Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said in his opening statement that, "today is not a happy occasion."
That was proven quickly, as GOP lawmakers repeatedly accused the FBI Director and Rosenstein of withholding information, and frustrating legitimate oversight from the Congress about the Russia investigation, as Republicans said it was time to end the Special Counsel's probe.
"Whatever you got - finish it the hell up," boomed Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) about the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections, and any possible ties to the Trump Campaign.
At the hearing, Republicans also zeroed in on FBI official Peter Strzok, citing his text messages that indicated his disdain for then-candidate Donald Trump.
"You guys have some work to do," said Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL). "Because if the bias is affecting official action, that is a big, big problem."
Pressed by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) on why he was even still overseeing the investigation, Rosenstein refused to yield.
"Congressman, I can assure you that if it were more than appropriate for me to recuse, I would be more than happy to," as Rosenstein flashed a grin.
That smile was not there a few minutes later, as Rosenstein tangled with one of his fiercest critics, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH).
"Mr. Rosenstein, why are you keeping information from Congress?" asked Jordan, who has led the charge against the Deputy Attorney General for months, arguing that he is aiding and abetting a Russia probe that's biased against the President.
"Congressman, I am not keeping any information from Congress," Rosenstein responded, as the two tangled for almost seven minutes, frequently interrupting each other.
"Mr. Rosenstein did you threaten staffers on the House Intelligence Committee? Media reports suggest that you did," Jordan pressed.
"Media reports are mistaken," Rosenstein responded, disputing Jordan several times along those lines.
While the hearing was going on - as Jordan pointedly noted - the House passed a GOP resolution along party lines, "insisting" that the Trump Justice Department and the FBI turn over more documents about the Russia investigation.
"This is a loud and clear message from Congress: it's time for the DOJ to be forthcoming and tell the truth to the American public," said Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC).
Only one Republican did not vote for that resolution - Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) voted "Present."
Democrats labeled the resolution - and the hearing - part of a "ridiculous, conspiracy-fueled" effort by Republicans to run interference for President Trump on the Russia probe.
The hearing came several hours after President Trump had again denounced the Russia investigation in a post on Twitter, denouncing what he has labeled the "13 Angry Democrats" whom he claims are running an unfair investigation against him.
Both Wray and Rosenstein said they aren't part of such an effort.
Asked about one of Mr. Trump's tweets from Thursday morning, where the President said, "Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling in our Election!" - the FBI Director made clear that statement did not square with the evidence.